45 Hells Angels: Bike gangsters or their associates have been convicted or charged in the last year, marking a historic high.

Lori Culbert, Kim Bolan and Neal Hall

Vancouver Sun

September 30, 2005

At least 45 members or associates of outlaw motorcycle gangs have been charged with or convicted of criminal offences in B.C. in the last year, a Vancouver Sun investigation has revealed.

 

The charges or convictions involve:

 

- Seventeen full-patch Hells Angels members, including a chapter president. Three of those men have been kicked out of the club.

- One former member.

- A prospect and a hangaround, who both have status with the club.

- Six men who belong to or are associated with the Hells Angels puppet club, the Prince George Renegades, including the club president, who has since been murdered.

CREDIT: Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun files

Robert Leonard Thomas, a full-patch member of the Kelowna Hells Angels staring down the media when his chapter's clubhouse was raided, was charged July 17.

- Nineteen men described by police as associates of the Hells Angels because they allegedly commit crimes with the club.

In addition, one full-patch member is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in an extortion allegation, and another full-patch member owns a house where a marijuana crop was raided this year. Neither of those two men face criminal charges and they are not included in the list of 45.

 

Some of the charges were the result of raids at three Hells Angels clubhouses this year, as well as at the Renegades headquarters in Prince George.

 

The action by police and prosecutors has been unprecedented in this province, but it hasn't stopped the club, or other organized crime groups, from continuing to expand.

 

"As quickly as these individuals are arrested, others are in their place," said RCMP Supt. Marianne Ryan, chief officer of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Team.

 

"Even if they do go to jail, they still exert a significant amount of influence."

 

Rick Ciarniello, a member of the Vancouver Hells Angels chapter, said police use a broad definition of who associates with the club, and denies he knows many of the people charged this year beyond the full-patch members.

 

"Nowadays, Hells Angels has become synonymous with criminal organization because of the media attention they have given it," he said.

 

When asked if his group was being unfairly targeted by police, Ciarniello responded: "I don't have the answer to that. We will have to see what the evidence is when it comes out ... If these people are guilty, then they will be dealt with by the system we live in."

 

While outlaw motorcycle gangs were the most high-profile gangsters arrested in B.C. this year, police have been targeting other organized crime groups such as Indo Canadians and Asian-based gangs.

 

A 2005 RCMP report into organized crime in B.C. says the Hells Angels remain the province's biggest and most dangerous gang. The number of other groups is also rapidly increasing, but there are only enough police officers to investigate roughly 30 per cent of them.

 

"We try to take on the higher groups, because obviously that will have a ripple effect down the hierarchy" said Ryan. "But unfortunately, sometimes when we take out those legs, there's another [group] quickly built."

 

The most significant charges against the Hells Angels and their associates this year were laid in July after raids of clubhouses in Kelowna and Vancouver's East End. Prosecutors used a new section of the Criminal Code that alleges crimes were committed for the benefit of a criminal organization.

"This is the first time that the police have been able to allege in this province that the Hells Angels is in fact a criminal organization," said RCMP Insp. Andy Richards, the special enforcement team's biker gang expert.

 

Nineteen club members or associates face a variety of charges that include extortion, death threats, producing and trafficking methamphetamine and cocaine, and possessing grenades and illegal firearms. Some of the charges contain the phrase: "being one of the persons who constitute a criminal organization, to wit the East End Charter of the Hells Angels."

 

But the charges cannot yet be celebrated as a major strike at organized crime, because most of them are still before the courts. "This is not the end, this has just begun," said RCMP biker gang expert Insp. Bob Paulson.

 

Until mid-2004, B.C. had a dismal track record of charging and convicting members of outlaw motorcycle gangs. That resulted in the Hells Angels operating nearly unchallenged in this province, becoming some of the most successful, wealthy and powerful chapters in the world.

 

So, about two years ago police agencies across B.C. began to work together better to increase pressure on the Hells Angels, and earlier this year the province launched a dedicated prosecution team to handle complicated organized crime cases in court.

 

There are about 100 full-patch Hells Angels in seven chapters in the Lower Mainland and Nanaimo, slightly higher than 95 members at this time last year.

 

The Angels own a clubhouse in Kelowna and at least six Vancouver-based members live there, but the establishment of an official chapter -- Kelowna is widely expected to be the eighth charter formed in B.C. -- has been delayed by the charges and raids, police say.

 

"It will depend in large part on them feeling well-established up there," Richards said, "and clearly after these recent arrests they will feel not all that comfortable."

 

The Renegades, a puppet club for the Vancouver Hells Angels chapter, was hit hard by a dual Vancouver-Prince George raid in January. The charges targeted the Renegades' president, two other members, a former member, a prospect and an associate.

 

President William (Billy) Moore was murdered two months after the raid. He was forced to watch his house burn down, and then his truck was set on fire with his body inside.

 

At the time of the January raid, the RCMP said the charges were the result of an informant infiltrating the club. No one has been charged in Moore's death, and police are hesitant to say whether the murder was an inside job in retaliation for the infiltration.

 

"We have not excluded a possible link to the investigation," Paulson said.

 

Some predict the Renegades will soon fold, but Prince George RCMP Const. Mike Caira said there are still a half-dozen members who are allegedly involved in marijuana and prostitution.

 

"When some of the upper echelon is either charged -- or in Mr. Moore's case, is no longer there to carry on -- then replacements fill in," Caira said.

He said a second organized crime group called the Crew, with links to the Hells Angels and Renegades, controls the hard-drug market in Prince George. A half dozen members or associates of the Crew have also been charged by police so far in 2005.

 

Other charges laid this year include drug trafficking offences against a Nanaimo Hells Angels member and an associate, as well as two Hells Angels members from Ontario, after police wrapped up their investigation of the December 2003 raid of the Nanaimo clubhouse.

 

Some of the charges facing the Hells Angels are for isolated matters, like assault, while others are part of a larger case allegedly involving a combination of violence, drug dealing and weapons.

 

The new federal organized crime legislation allows prosecutors to argue that if those crimes were committed as part of a larger network, there should be harsher penalties. Not all of the charges this year are under the new legislation because, in part, it's much more difficult to prove, and it is not easy to convince witnesses or victims to testify.

 

Ciarniello believes many of the charges laid under the new organized crime legislation were done just to scare people into pleading guilty. "I expect much of this stuff is to elicit guilty pleas because of the prospect they would have to fight criminal organization charges and that scares everybody," the Hells Angel said.

 

There have been other raids in B.C. over the past year for which charges have not yet been laid.

 

One involved a growing-operation in a Kelowna house that East End Hells Angels member Joseph Skreptak owns, but had rented out. Skreptak was not in the house when the raid occurred, but his truck -- with a Hells Angels sticker on it -- was parked there and another Hells Angels sticker was on the front door of the home.

 

RCMP Sgt. Al Haslett, of the southeast B.C. criminal intelligence section, said police have requested the Crown lay charges in the case, but the list of accused does not include Skreptak because they can't prove he had anything to do with the growing operation.

 

Ciarniello has said that Skreptak was merely a landlord with a tenant that grew pot.

 

But Richards, the special enforcement team's biker gang expert, said it is unlikely Skreptak's tenants cultivated pot in the house without his blessing.

 

"To be growing marijuana in a house they know is owned by a Hells Angels without them being sanctioned to do so -- logically, does that make any sense?" Richards asked. "The public can make their own conclusions."

 

He added that the case provides the strongest alleged link between a Hells Angel and a growing operation because the house was in Skreptak's name.

 

And last October, police raided more than 50 businesses and homes in the Lower Mainland, Okanagan, and West Kootenay, as well as in the Toronto area, that had alleged links to Hells Angels, Vietnamese and Italian organized-crime groups, after a 20-month investigation into proceeds from drug offences and other crimes.

RCMP Const. David Gray, of the integrated proceeds of crime unit, said organized crime groups often work together in lucrative drug operations. "It's very common in the investigations that we're doing that we're seeing a high level of coordination and cooperation," Gray said.

 

No charges have yet been laid in the case.

 

Police predicted a year ago that the Bandidos, a rival outlaw motorcycle gang, would expand into B.C. because two Washington state Bandido members already live in the Fraser Valley.

 

But police believe that hasn't happened yet because the Hells Angels are trying to stop Bandidos expansion into western Canada to avoid any conflict with the gang.

 

Other provinces have rival motorcycle gangs, the most obvious example being Quebec, where the Hells Angels and the Rock Machine waged a deadly battle. In B.C., the well-organized Hells Angels have managed to fend off rivals setting up shop here, but police predict it will happen one day.

 

"There's a lot of money to be made here," said RCMP Sgt. Gary Shinkaruk.

 

There is a new independent group in the Fraser Valley, called the UN Gang, that police fear could cause a turf war because they could challenge the Angels' control over certain areas.

 

"They don't roll over for the Hells Angels," Paulson said. "The Hells Angels are aware and concerned about them ... because they don't want to take them on."

 

The group's name is short for the United Nations because its dozens of members are from many different races. Police, who are in the early stages of tracking this group, say the club is involved in drugs and extortion and can be extremely violent.

 

While some Hells Angels have a good working relationship with UN Gang members, others want to run them out of town. "That's causing some conflict within the Hells Angels," Paulson said.

 

In some cases, organized crime groups in B.C. have learned to work together, such as Asians growing the pot and Indo Canadians trucking it across the border. "I think they have realized that the pie is big enough for many of them to get a slice, and they don't have to compete with each other that much," Ryan said.

 

But there is still a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes violence as the pecking order is worked out.

 

"We're dealing with a lot of offences like weapons trafficking, kidnapping, extortions, homicides. A lot of the homicides that are happening in the Lower Mainland are directly related to drug trafficking and the territorial issues," Ryan said.

 

Of the 31 murders the Integrated Homicide Investigations Team is probing this year, about 50 per cent are related to organized crime, usually with gang members targeting each other, said team leader Insp. Wayne Rideout.

 

Murder investigations involving organized crime are more time consuming because the killers are more sophisticated in covering up evidence, and some witnesses or victims' relatives are reluctant to cooperate with police.

lculbert@png.canwest.com

Nima Abbassian-Ghavami

Charged July 15, 2005

Raymond Abraham

Charged April 14, 2005

Robert William Alvarez

Charged May 15, 2005

Jason Cyrus Arkinstall

Convicted July 28, 2005

Wissam Ayach

Charged July 15, 2005

Benjamin Azeroual

Charged July 15, 2005

Chad Barroby

Charged July 15, 2005

Bryan Bell  

Convicted Sept. 9, 2004

William Bordenave

Convicted Apr. 15, 2005

Vincenso Brienza    

Charged April 14, 2005

Jason Brown

Charged July 15, 2005

Jonathan Sal Bryce 

Charged July 15, 2005

Joseph Calendino 

Charged April 15, 2005

Christian Cameron   

Convicted Feb. 16, 2005

Richard Conway   

Charged July 15, 2005

David George Gerow        

Convicted July 8, 2005

Sabino Debenedetto  

Charged April 15, 2005

Brian Jung

Charged July 15, 2005

David Francis Giles

Charged July 15, 2005

Robbie Louis Lajeunesse 

Charged March 11, 2005

Norman Edward Krogstad

Charged Jan. 24, 2005

George James McBeth 

Charged Jan. 24, 2005

Ronaldo Lising 

Charged May 15, July 15

Michael Jeffery McImurray

Charged March 11, 2005

Darrin Allan Massey

Convicted July 25, 2005

David Patrick O'Hara

Convicted July 28, 2005

Wayne O'Brien

Convicted June 20, 2005

Leroy Serra Pereira  

Charged July 15, 2005

David Pearse 

Charged July 15, 2005

Randall Richard Potts

Charged July 15, 2005

Nikolaos Petrantonakis 

Charged March 11, 2005

Jeffrey Darryl Rawluk

Convicted May 10, 2005

John Virgil Punko

Charged July 15, 2005

Kerry Ryan Renaud

Charged July 15, 2005

Richard Andrew Rempel

Charged July 15, 2005

Lea Sheppe   

Charged March 11, 2005

David Roger Revell  

Charged July 15, 2005

Cedric Smith

Charged Jan. 24, 2005

Ronnie Sinclair

Convicted Sept. 9, 2004

Derek Charles Timmins 

Charged Jan. 24, 2005

Robert Leonard Thomas

Charged July 17, 2005

Jean Joseph Violette 

Charged July 15, 2005

Jason Dennis Townsend

Convicted July 8, 2005

William John Moore

Murdered March 6, 2005

William John Moore      

Charged Jan. 24, 2005

� The Vancouver Sun 2005

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